Restaurant Review

Le Bistro: Impeccable service seals the deal

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Le Bistro's décor set the mood for the meal. (Photo: Sarah Mateshaytis)

There's been a lot of buzz since Le Bistro's highly anticipated re-opening in December. A decade ago, the original Le Bistro restaurant stood in the exact place, serving several of the same dishes, and exuding an ambiance similar to that of the restaurant today (or so I'm told). While I wasn't in Halifax when the original Le Bistro was drawing in rave reviews, I wanted to check out what all the fuss was about.

Located on South Park Street, the dining room's décor fits perfectly with its mandate, reminiscent of how I can only imagine an eatery in southern France would be. The red and white checked tablecloths and tall white candles, and the potted trees wrapped in white fairy lights made for a cosy, romantic dining experience.

Overall the food was good--not great, but good. While my date and I enjoyed our meals, it was the service, not the food, which would draw us back. From the moment we walked in, we were treated warmly and respectfully, even as students. Our server was friendly, chatting when appropriate but also giving us the privacy to enjoy our meal.

For an appetizer, I ordered the soupe à l'ognion gratinée. While all menu items were in French (the prices were even marked in Euros alongside the dollar), the descriptions were in English, simple and straight to the point. The classic French onion soup was delicious, although for $8.95 it had better be. It was light, despite the cheesy crouton served on top. The broth was flavourful, not too salty, and packed with onions. While the melted cheese made for a difficult time eating with any sort of grace, it was by far my favourite dish of the evening.


Enlarge Map
Location of Le Bistro restaurant.

My date ordered the pommes frites: "fries served like no other!" And while I tasted a few, they didn't live up to their claim. Served with ketchup and a roasted garlic aioli, the presentation was impressive, brought to the table in a cone of paper, standing upright with a beaker holder you'd normally find in a science lab. The fries were thin-cut and sprinkled with light seasoning. They were good, but nothing special. And certainly not worth the $5.95 we paid for them.

For my main course I ordered the biftek di bistro, a New York striploin topped with a buttermilk onion and provolone crust--it tasted similar to an onion ring--and served with mashed potatoes and roasted zucchini (the vegetable of the day). While it was the most expensive item on the menu at $21.95, our server said it was also one of the most popular.

Unfortunately, my steak wasn't cooked to my liking. After ordering it well done, the steak I was served was medium rare. After a few bites, I sent it back, requesting they cook it a little longer. Our server almost immediately returned empty handed, informing me that they were going to make me a new meal.

For the inconvenience, and to bide our time while we waited for the replacement, the servers provided us with a complimentary round of drinks. They were ever-so apologetic, and did their best to remedy the situation.

The second time around, it was much better. The steak was cooked just as requested, and while the potatoes and zucchini were rather bland, the onion and provolone crust added a much-needed burst of flavour.

For my date's main course, he asked the server to choose something for him from the back page of the menu. She delivered him the fresh haddock, lightly breaded with lemon flavouring--one of her personal favourites. Priced at $13.95, he said it was light, fresh and over all delectable. Served on a bed of lightly spiced basmati rice and with a side of grilled zucchini, he said he found the serving portion small (although that might just speak to his hearty appetite).

Unfortunately, come the end of the meal, neither of us had room for dessert, although I have heard the lemon pie is a must-have. While the meal was on the expensive side for a student budget, I would certainly save up to go back. What Le Bistro lacked in terms of its menu, it certainly made up for in charm and hospitality.

The stigma that often comes with being a student, particularly when dining out, was left at Le Bistro's door. And because of that, I'll certainly be heading back. Maybe next time I'll check out that famous lemon pie.

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